ANOTHER bottle of beer from another part of the world. When I spotted this in a local shop for just over £1, I had to try it. This is Birra Peja Pilsner.
There’s not much to say about the little brown bottle. The labels don’t make it much of a product to look at either. I think it looks a little like Holsten Pils. You can just tell that this is going to come from somewhere a little unusual. But where?
The neck label certainly doesn’t tell us. It sticks to the basics of the logos plus an established date of 1971. Not exactly brimming with heritage, is it?
The big roundel that is the front label is where to look for the answers. It has a logo that looks like a shield. The picture on it is hard to make out though. Is that a bridge spanning two mountains?
The top border, I think, says something about being a quality beer. The bottom border of the roundel, then, is the place to divert your eyes. That’s because it says “Kosova’s Finest Beer”. That’s right, this beer is apparently from Kosova. That’s one more country to tick off the list, as this will be not only my first beer from Kosova, but from the Balkans.
To check that Kosova it is indeed located where I think it is, I begin Googling. Watching the news over the past few years tells me that the Balkan politics makes the Middle-East seem as simple as breathing. First port of call was a Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosova. A page that tells us that that “Kosova” is the Albanian name for “Kosovo”. The same place that in February 2008 declared itself independent, but which only some other countries recognise. What with the pushing and shoving from the Serbian people and their Russian friends, it’s a miracle this bottle escaped to London at all.
As is the way with many of these imported bottles, this one has a little white sticker. And here it is.
The unusual thing is, this one wasn’t imported by a British firm. It was imported by a German one. This bottle therefore comes courtesy of Kelmendi Import & Export, Ratingen-Homberg, Deutschland.
Fortunately, we still have a proper back label to entertain ourselves with. And what’s more, some of it is written in English.
Usually, brewers like to write something on the back label that describes the beer. Something that sums up the quality or the history. Or, at very least, some hokum dreamt up by people who practice something called marketing. In the case of Birra Peja Pilsner, we get none of those things. Instead, we have the terse, technical and unglamorous term “Pasteurized beer”.
The next detail tells us that this was brewed and bottled by “Birra Peja”. Who come from Pejë. Which is presumably a place within Kosovo, or Kosovë as they spell it.
Next up is the list of ingredients. This one mentions water, barley malt and hops.
Under that is this bottle’s vital statistics. As you’ve probably guessed, this is the regular 0.33L bottle. The alcoholic volume is a surprisingly low 4%. That’s surprising because the Polish like their considerably stronger. It appears as if people from the Balkans, or at very least Albanians like their beer to be less anti-social. The other little detail on there is that this has an “Extract 11.0%”. Whatever that means.
Lastly, tucked away at the very bottom of the label is the web address. The one this one has printed on it, is www.birrapeja.com. I’ve just had a quick look, and like nearly every other, it’s Flash dominated. That said, it’s the least flashy Flash driven site I’ve seen for a while. If you’re after the facts and answers quickly, it’s a surprisingly effective place to start.
Time to crack open this bottle and answer some questions. This time, those questions are what will it taste like? And… as this is the first beer I’ve tried from Kosovo or the Balkans, that’s about it really. I’m fascinated to find out.
If you like to pour your beer into a glass, watch out. This one comes with a big head. And, unlike lots of others, this one doesn’t die down in a hurry. A few moments later now, and it’s a big, undulating layer of froth. The beer itself is a very lager looking pale yellow colour. Things aren’t looking good.
Fortunately, it smells a bit better. Yes it has that familiar, lagery smell of malted barley. Somehow though, Birra Peja Pilsner succeeds in smelling warm, rich and malty. All of which is making the taste a mystery. What will it taste like?
A couple of gulps in, and I’m enjoying how Birra Peja Pilsner tastes. Being a pilsner style lager, it doesn’t have much flavour. What it does have is a light, malted barley aftertaste. The familiar, lagery “bite” is very light and subtle. The whole bitter aftertaste experience rolls in, passes by and leaves your mouth with a lingering, tangy bitterness. It’s also a different experience to many other bottles, which scores it points for distinctiveness and character.
What is there to like about Birra Peja Pilsner? A bit more than with many lagers. I like the light, malted barley taste. I think the “bite” isn’t as strong and off-putting as with some lagers. I also think the aftertaste is nowhere near as revolting as many other lagers are. All of which makes Birra Peja Pilsner rather drinkable.
Nearing the end of the bottle now, and there are some things about Birra Peja Pilsner that are putting me off. For one thing, that insane head could be a problem if you like to drink your beer from the glass. It’s quite a gassy beer. Although both of those things could be because of a bumpy ride from Peja, Kosovo to London. Because it’s a lager, it has no real flavour. The aftertaste, which seemed terrific at first is starting to annoy me. It’s lingering badly now and not in a pleasant way. That’s something stopping it from being clean and refreshing, which a good pilsner lager should aim for.
It’s a mixed result for Birra Peja Pilsner. It tasted great at first, but by the end of the bottle, it tasted foul. If I visit Kosovo, which some day, I hope to do, I’ll happily drink Birra Peja Pilsner. If you’re curious to try bottles of lager from unusual places, then Birra Peja Pilsner is one to try. Lager aficionados will probably get a kick from it too. Personally, I won’t be buying up any more bottles of the stuff.
Have you tried Birra Peja Pilsner? Are you from Kosovo? What reputation does it have there and can you offer up any translations?
Do please leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations here.